Greater Tulsa Reporter
HAPPY LEARNERS: Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum listening to a student read. She is one of the many students who is benefitting from Reading Tulsa volunteers who spend at least an hour per week helping the students to improve their reading skills.
Courtesy City of Tulsa
The spirit of high expectations in our community continues gaining momentum as we work toward making Tulsa a premier place in Oklahoma to receive an education.
The City Council and I have established improvements in high school graduation rates as one of our eight areas of strategic focus moving forward. We know public education matters to Tulsans, and third-grade reading is a key academic benchmark for students. Third-grade reading proficiency is one of the greatest indicators of whether or not a student will graduate from high school. We also know our third-grade reading proficiency in Tulsa is right around 50 percent. We must do much better.
Fortunately, there is a strategy to make improvements and it’s called Reading Partners. Reading Partners is a volunteer program in which Tulsans volunteer an hour per week to practice reading with a student who needs a little extra help in improving their reading skills. The results speak for themselves: While only half of Tulsa third-graders are reading at a proficient level currently, that number skyrockets to over 90 percent for students who participate in Reading Partners. The only limitation on the program’s success is the number of adults who volunteer.
This past February, I signed an executive order giving City of Tulsa employees the option of participating in the Reading Partners program during City business hours, if volunteering will not impact their work productivity. This agreement makes the City of Tulsa the largest employer partner with Reading Partners in the United States. The progress of each child that a City of Tulsa employee partners with will be tracked, so at the end of the academic year we will be able to show the citizens of Tulsa what a difference their employees made in the academic success of Tulsa students.
Allowing City employees to participate in the Reading Partners program will also indirectly affect a number of other long-term priorities for our city, ranging from economic development to reducing crime rates. What we’re doing today is something students will see the benefit of quickly, while our community will experience the benefit from this 10, 15 and 20 years down the road. As with education in general, this is a long-term investment.
I’m grateful to Reading Partners for their program that complements Tulsa Public Schools’ work to ensure all students read on grade level. It’s a proven way for members of our community to volunteer one hour a week and by doing so, help every student have the literacy skills they need to succeed in school and in life. Anyone interested in learning more can visit: www.readingpartners.org/tulsa
Renewing a spirit of high expectations also means having clear ways to reach our goals. When it comes to making Tulsa the best place in Oklahoma to receive an education, Reading Partners offers a clear way for all of us to play our part. Together, we are building a better city for the next generation.